TAKING A DECIDEDLY SUBJECTIVE LOOK BACK AT THE MISCUES OF THE YEAR
By T.T. Stern-Enzi
Typically, I would rather not focus on the negative and problematic films of any given year for practical reasons. During the course of an average year, I watch close to 300 movies in theaters (or via streaming links) and close to two thirds of those are not inspired representations of the best of the art form. At best, most of them are pedestrian efforts, workmanlike in their execution of craft and precision, complete with predictable plot points and broad characterizations. In essence, they tend to be utterly forgettable, deleted from my memory banks as soon as I record my brief impressions for posterity.
Yet, every year, without fail, a handful of titles come along that defy my somewhat noble intentions to not linger on the negative. And I should note, as you will soon see for yourselves, that these movies are not merely wretched excrement that any and all audiences rightly shun based on the scathing assessments of professionals or word of mouth from hapless ticket purchasers. No, some of these titles slip through the critical defenses and actually earn box office acclaim. In the end though, a turkey by any other name remains a turkey.
“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” / “Vacation” / “Poltergeist” / “Terminator Genisys”
No different than any other year in the last decade, 2015 will go down in the annals as yet another installment in the inevitable decline of our culture thanks, in part, to the continued onslaught of inept sequels, prequels and reboots along with a steady stream of contemporary updates of classics (or at the very least, originals that served the basic purpose of entertainment and weren’t exactly dated). Did Kevin James truly need to insult audiences (and himself) with “Mall Cop 2,” which left me wondering if James was bullying himself? The Ed Helms “Vacation” iteration attempted to gross us out, in the fashion of contemporary comedies, but forgot that it was the nutty characters that mattered far more than what befell them in the original series. “Poltergeist” was spookily lifeless. And, to be totally honest, I’m not sure what happened with “Terminator Genisys” (and that goes double for the creative team). Taxing the limits of time travel, the movie was a prequel/sequel/reboot all in one that didn’t make a lick of sense. It’s not even worth going back in time to erase from our collective consciousness.
Sadly, this film earns its turkey strips because of all the titles targeted, this was the one I genuinely had high hopes for, up until its release. Josh Trank marveled audiences with his low-fi found footage would-be superhero flick “Chronicle,” about a trio of friends who emerge from an underground cave with extra-special abilities that they use and abuse as only teens can. The dysfunctional dynamics he captured made him the perfect choice for this reboot of Marvel’s First Family of Superheroes, but the great expectations and greater responsibilities of such a massive project got the better of him and it will likely be quite some time before we see more from him.
“50 Shades of Grey” / “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2”
It is not so strange to lump this pair of turkeys together. Both films arrived courtesy of overly hyped literary works; part of our love for cash grabbing adaptations, and they benefitted from the synergistic manipulations of our familiarity with the source material. Yet, at the heart of my problems with each franchise, is a glaring lack of passion. “50 Shades” ensnares us with the idea of a great burning love affair (with insinuations of the taboo and generous kink), but fails to deliver on the promise. I wanted an update of “9 ½ Weeks,” but walked away from the flaccid frames wondering if eroticism might be extinct in the modern world. I had similar concerns about Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the hardened heroine of “The Hunger Games.” She fought valiantly against the forces of oppression, but I never felt a single iota of the love that supposedly drove her to such action. I long for grand gestures and won’t settle for computer-generated facsimiles. None of us should.